What a Difference He makes in our lives.
(an Easter Play)
Setting The Scene:
Scene 1 “The council determines Jesus must die.” (Matthew 27 & Mark 14)
The executive room adjoining the Temple, where the rulers of the Jews meet.
It is a spacious opulently furnished room with a large table in the center, around which the seven elders of Israel sit in conference. Hang plush curtains in one area (as if covering an entrance) behind and to the left of the High priests ‘throne’, have a bucket of scrolls at his right hand and a paper report in front of him. Include other important executive furniture and a water dispenser.
(This remains the setting for all scenes, Jesus would have been judged in a larger room with probably 70 elders in attendance.)
Narrator: The High priest has called the council together to discuss this upstart prophet, Jesus of Nazareth. Reports abound of his healing miracles and his total disregard of the traditions of Moses and the elders,
Enter the Council Members: The High Priest – His Father in Law – Nicodemus – Joseph of Arimethea – Simon and two other Council Members
Have the Sanhedrin sit in conference discussing recent events in Jerusalem, The High Priests Father to his right.
Simon: “What do you think of the fact that Herod arrested the baptiser?”
Councilor 2: “Are you surprised? He publicly accused Herod of adultery with his brother Phillip’s wife.”
Nicodemus: “The problem is, John’s right you know, and the only way to avoid great scandal and political upheaval is to remove him from the scene.”
Joseph of Arimethea: “Yes! But he won’t be able to hold him indefinitely without a trial and then the fat will really be in the fire.”
Councilor 3: “No problem! Herod had him beheaded,”
Simon (interjected): “ We have a greater problem with John’s winebibber cousin, this Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son.”
Simon (Continues): “He hobnobs with prostitutes and publicans and all manner of sinners, and openly flaunts the traditions of the elders. Yet he has been healing the lame, the blind and even lepers according to the grapevine. Why I heard the other day that Jairus’ daughter was certified dead but was later seen alive, after Jesus and certain of his followers had visited. These rumors are doing a lot of damage to our cause.”
Nicodemus: “What rumors, Simon? I have reason to believe that these things are actually happening. Don’t you remember the man who was born blind, and the other at the pool of Bethesda? I wonder if any man could do these things unless God is with Him"
Simon: “Nothing has really been substantiated, when challenged the witnesses go to ground,
Echoes in the council: “Hear! Hear!”
Joseph of Arimethea: “ We must not judge him too soon.”
Caiaphas the High priest: “Are you and Nicodemus becoming his disciples as well?” asks and continues to all, “We may find, like Herod, that it will be better for us politically if this Jesus dies to save the nation. The Romans won’t tolerate another Jewish Messiah.”
Simon: “Yes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, this man is obviously a sinner. Look at the people he associates with; prostitutes, publicans, uneducated fishermen; all the riff raff of society, and consider his total disregard for the Sabbath.”
Councilor 1: “It’s obvious that his magic is derived from Satan’s power. He casts out demons through Beelzebub, not our God!”
Annas, the High Priests father in law: “We’ll need to be cautious; he is very clever, just look at some of the answers he has given to our trick questions,”
The High Priest said: “Well are we agreed then? This Jesus of Nazareth is another imposter and like those before must be dealt with; any riff raff blaspheming the name of God should die.”
The chamber echoed once again with: “Hear! Hear!” drowning any further dissent.
(Joining the Scenes)
(What follows can be recorded on a tape or other recorder and relayed at suitable volume just outside the chamber.)
Overheard in the background:
A tumult outside as Jesus of Nazareth approaches the city, on an ass, and the people sang out, “Hosanna to the king that cometh in the name of the Lord!”
And yet closer at hand: (is heard)
The crash and clatter of Jesus entering the temple, overturning the tables, opening the cages and pens saying, “Why do you make my Fathers house a house of merchandise?” and “It should be a place of prayer!” The chaos that results has the temple guard drive Jesus and his followers out of the temple area for fear of a riot. There are great numbers in Jerusalem for the Passover and a riot could easily ensue.
Scene 2 “Judas Betrays Jesus.” (Matthew 26 v 14/15)
Setting as in Scene 1, with a member of the Temple guard in attendance.
High Priest: “I have called this urgent meeting because a golden opportunity has presented itself,” (to the guard) “show him in.”
Enter Judas Iscariot sheepishly.
High Priest: (disdainfully) “This man has agreed to betray Jesus into our hands tonight for thirty pieces of silver, should we do it?”
Simon: “What risk?”
Judas: “None. He will be alone with his other eleven disciples.”
Nicodemus: “Why would you betray him so readily?”
Judas: “He is taking too long to establish the kingdom, perhaps this will force his hand.”
High Priest: “Can we agree then? And dispatch the temple guard to arrest him?”
The Majority: “Yes! Yes!”
High Priest to the ‘head of the guard’: “Go then and bring him in.”
Exit the Temple Guard and Judas.
High Priest: “We will try him tonight and take him to Pilate in the morning. The people will be too busy with preparations for the feast, to become curious about what we are doing. So stay here now to avoid delay.”
Exit those on stage
The Sanhedrin returns and Jesus is dragged in before them by the Temple guard, He has been roughly handled and bound and looks disheveled. Annas the High Priests Father in law accompanies Jesus: (John 18 v 12 to 24.)
High Priest: “Tell me, who are your disciples and what heresies have you been teaching them?”
Jesus: “Why do you ask? All my teaching was given in the Synagogues and in the Temple, where the Jews gather; I have taught nothing secretly. So why do you ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said, they know.”
An officer of the temple guard steps forward and strikes Jesus with the palm of his hand – “How dare you answer the High Priest like that?”
Jesus: “ If I have answered wrongly show me what is wrong, but if not why do you strike me?”
Simon: “ Tell us, are you the Christ?”
Jesus: “ If I do tell you, you will not believe me, and if I ask you what you think, you will not answer me, nor let me go: But this I tell you, you will see the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
Councilor 1: “ Are you the Son of God.”
Jesus: “ You have just said that I am.”
Councilor 2: “We don’t need any further proof, we have heard him blaspheme with our own ears.”
High Priest: “ Take him to Pilate’s Judgment hall we will follow.”
Jesus is led out by the Temple guard.
The Sanhedrin leave the chamber.
Two days after their first meeting, the High Priest and the Sanhedrin have their wish; Jesus dies the death of a common criminal on a cross and his followers are scattered. Now Jesus’ body is sealed in a tomb guarded by a Quaternion of Roman Soldiers. This troublemaker is out of their hair. Or is he?
Scene 3 The Soldiers report He is risen (Matthew 28 v 11 – 15)
Setting as in Scene 1 but Joseph and Nicodemus are absent and the Temple guards stand nervously by.
The High Priest: “Something urgent has arisen.” (To the temple guard) “Show the Romans in.”
Simon: “Where are Nicodemus and Joseph?”
Councilor 1: “ They have declined to come. I fear they have become too sympathetic to the Galilean’s cause.”
High Priest: “We haven’t time for trivial matters now. Do you recall that the Nazarene said that he would rise again on the third day? Well just listen to this.”
turning to the leader of the Roman guard, “Captain tell them.”
Roman Captain: “ Early this morning, about sunrise, the stone began to roll from the opening of the tomb, while there was no one there to roll it away. Mysteriously, as if the earth tilted, the seal broke and the great stone began to roll. Once the tomb was open we could see that the body was not there. The cloths in which it had been wrapped were as if the body had come out without unwrapping and the face cloth lay neatly folded at the head. The Nazarene was gone.”
Councilor 2: “Impossible! You must have slept.”
Roman Captain: “I swear by Caesar that neither I, nor any of my men slept one wink all night. In fact we maintained a proper vigil all through the days and nights.”
High Priest: “You will all recall that the imposter said that he would rise again on the third day. But everyone knows that such a thing is impossible.”
Simon: “ He raised Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany, from the dead after four days, is it remotely possible that he came back to life?"
Roman Captain: “One of my own men plunged a spear into his heart on the cross, he was truly dead when one of your number took his body from the cross,”
Simon (disdainfully): “ That was Joseph; he supplied the tomb.”
High Priest: We cannot admit to any such thing as a resurrection, some of us are Sadducees and while we can debate disagreements about words we cannot alter facts.”
Councilor 1: “The soldiers must say they slept and Jesus’ disciples stole the body.”
Councilor 2: “ He couldn’t have risen could he? No of course not. The disciples stole the body.”
Roman Captain: “Our punishment will be great. We dare not sleep while on watch. They could not have stolen the body. There is only one entrance to the tomb and it was sealed”
High Priest: “Don’t say anything to anyone. We’ll fix it with your superiors and you will be well rewarded for your silence. We’ll explain to your masters the possible consequences if the rumor gets out that he is alive. You’d better go now and remove all the evidence.”
Exit those on Stage, The Soldiers first and then the Council (Interval 2)
Narrator: Jesus was seen to be alive again by his followers during the next forty days. It is reported that he was seen by over 500 of his followers at one time. As a result his disciples continued the miracles and ministry of this new Messiah and today there are millions of people all over the world that follow this Jesus. They sing of their association with him, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” They are glad to be known to associate with him.
Scene 4 Peter and John and the Sanhedrin (Acts Chapter 4)
Narrator: There was an uproar in the temple! A man who had been lame since birth was walking and leaping and praising God and claiming that Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, had given him healing. The Council sent the Temple guard to bring Peter and John to them to be examined, such things cannot be allowed in the Temple. So we now find Peter and John before the Council.
Setting as in scene 3 - but those present are Annas the High Priest, Caiaphas, Jonathan, Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family with Gamaliel.
High Priest: “Bring in those men from the temple.”
Enter the temple guard dragging Peter and John with them and Peter and John stand between them to be examined, as well as the lame man who has been healed.
High Priest: “On whose authority and in whose name did you heal that lame man, and by what power? ”
Peter (with John at his side) ”You rulers and elders, if your question is by what power and on whose authority was this lame man healed today, here is your answer. It was by the power and authority of the name Jesus Christ of Nazareth, he was the one you crucified and whom God raised from the dead; It is by His name that this man stands here before you fit and well. This Jesus is the stone that you builders rejected and has become the chief of the corner in God’s new building. There can be no salvation in anyone else at all, for there is no other name given under heaven, by which we may receive salvation.”
Narrator: Observing the boldness of Peter and John, who they considered unlearned and ignorant men, they began to wonder but realized they had been with Jesus during his ministry. Standing right beside Peter and John was the healed man so that the rulers had no valid argument. They ordered Peter and John out of the chamber. Exit Peter and John.
The Rulers (drawing aside and speaking to one another)
Caiaphas: “What are we to do with these men? For it is common knowledge in Jerusalem that a notable miracle has come about through them; we dare not deny it.”
Gamaliel: “ Be careful, if this is truly a work of God you may find yourself opposing God. If it is not it will come to nothing.”
Alexander: “ We have to caution them not to speak in this name ever again.”
The High Priest: to the guards “ Bring those men back in.”
Enter Peter and John.
The High Priest: “As rulers of the people, we command you to cease all preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus.”
John: “ Is it right in God’s eyes that we should obey you rather than God? Judge it for yourselves. We cannot give up speaking those things that we have seen and heard.”
Jonathon: “ You have heard our judgment and you had better take note.”
Exit All from the Chamber:
Which do you associate with?
Religion or Reality?